Internet Sensation Alex Su & the Transformative Power of Humor
If you watch videos of Alex Su on TikTok or YouTube, you might expect him to have a bigger than life personality. Not so. What you will find is a soft spoken, down to earth lawyer who speaks frankly about his career change from Big Law attorney to software salesperson to internet sensation.
His quirky videos found @legaltechbro poking fun at the legal industry garner him just shy of 100,000 followers. In addition to his work at contract software maker Ironclad, he writes for Above the Law and his own online newsletter “Off the Record.”
The theme of this edition of the Bar Journal is attorney well-being. We are taking a closer look at humor and the lighter side of life as we explore how to take care of ourselves so we can take a care of our clients. Alex Su has a “road less traveled” story demonstrating his work to find the best path for himself and his family while showing us how to enjoy a laugh along the way.
An Epiphany at the Crossroads
To understand his journey, we need to start at his beginnings. After graduating from the Northwestern Law school, where he was an editor of the law review, he spent a few years as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell and clerked for a federal judge.
At age 33, just six years out of law school, Su found himself at a crossroads. Following a layoff from a large firm, Su tried his hand at a small firm and then as a solo practitioner. All three positions left him feeling hollow and yearning for a different kind of work experience. He was single with no children and that’s when he had an epiphany.
“It was a fork in the road. Working in law turned out to be not what I expected. So, I had to say ‘what am I good at, what am I bad at?” That soul searching led to the pivot that would change his life.
Su liked working with people and had a knack for explaining technology and software programs to people. He used his understanding of the legal profession to sell contract management software while using humor to relate to his clients.
“My experience as a lawyer helped me communicate how small firms could compete with big firms with the right technology,” he says. He started making comedy sketch videos for fun and to drum up new business. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and more lawyers were working remotely, his comedy sketches took off. He says it was a bit a luck coupled with impeccable timing and other software companies took notice.
Enter software maker Ironclad who saw the confluence of his skills and offered him a new job created just for him: community developer. It’s neither marketing nor sales of its product. Su calls it his “unicorn job” designed with his personality in mind. His job is to engage the community in the hopes it will generate interest in software makers products.
Humor Opens Doors to Dialogue
Su says joking about a sensitive topic lessens its taboo nature. “I talk about things that are serious but with humor it opens the door to dialogue. At first, I was afraid of being scorned,” he said. “But I found that the vulnerability of sharing a serious topic publicly invites support and community.”
One early example of success came in a video about being one of a few Asian Americans in his firm and what its like to be a first generation lawyer dealing with demanding parents.
Posting about topics like burnout, depression, and imposter syndrome while cloaked in humor helping people find others with the same experience. A community sprung up in the comment section of those posts where viewers made connections with others who were also struggling.
“As lawyers we live on outward signs of success, the prestige, and the status. We don’t like to admit when we are wrong or when we are hurting. Now we are creating tribes where you can find comfort in sharing the struggle, knowing that you are not the only one.”
The success of his online videos helps him create a balance between work and family life. Now a married father with a young child, he enjoys the being able to create a community through his work at Ironclad while also caring for his family.
“I love what I do, I love my job and I feel like because of the internet, I’ve been able to both contribute to the community and to work. I have the flexibility to take care of my three year old and excel at work.”
He talks about maybe writing a book someday about his journey, but for now he is content to help Ironclad succeed and continue to make people laugh in the legal community. As a young lawyer, Su says he had strict goals and timelines in every aspect of his life. Now he takes a more laid-back approach.
“I’m trying to take things more one step at a time and see what happens.”